DA wants Dept. of Justice to investigate civil rights violations by Mt. Vernon police

Northern Suburbs

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Monday, April 26, 2021. The Justice Department is opening a sweeping probe into policing in Louisville after the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police during a raid at her home. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

Officials in Westchester called on the feds to investigate the Mount Vernon Police Department for “pervasive and persistent alleged civil rights violations” Tuesday.

Westchester DA Miriam Rocah said her office is investigating several MVPD officers regarding alleged criminal behavior; she said over time, her office has discovered what could be patterns of inappropriate or illegal acts.

“While our criminal investigations of individual officers continue, we are requesting that DOJ scrutinize the MVPD’s operations, training and policies to determine whether the MVPD is systematically violating peoples’ civil rights and, if so, to take action to address these matters,” DA Rocah added.

Rocah and her office have handed over the materials they’ve collected to the DOJ, she said.

The mayor of Mount Vernon supports the investigation.

“Since taking office in January, 2020 my mandate has been transformation and accountability across city agencies including the police department. We are working hard to dismantle systemic issues and reform policing to ensure that our community is a safe place for all,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “Our administration referred multiple cases to the District Attorney for review and welcome DA Rocah’s request that DOJ add its resources to identify and address these issues for the benefit of our community.”

The commissioner of MVPD said he supports the investigation for the sake of transparency, but hopes it concludes quickly.

T”he Mount Vernon police department under my leadership has embraced police reforms and transparency since I was hired as police commissioner. This is the second time we’ve turned the investigations over to the DA — previously to the former DA Anthony Scarpino and now current DA Mimi Rocah,” Police Commissioner Glenn Scott said. “They have decided to turn this over to the DOJ, we are hopeful that this will lead to a conclusion in the investigation of these cases.  We have been fully cooperative with all agencies and look forward to the results we have been seeking since January 2020.  The Mount Vernon Police Department has been implementing aggressive reforms and this will only add onto the work we’ve been committed to since day 1.”

The alleged misconduct being investigated includes unlawful strip searches and excessive use of force.

A DOJ investigation would focus on broader issues of civil law; the DA’s office will continue to investigate criminal matters and would collaborate with the MVPD.

In March, the DA expressed concerns about a number of complaints regarding strip and body cavity searches between 2012 and 2020.

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